The nature of cladistics [...]

Don.Colless at CSIRO.AU Don.Colless at CSIRO.AU
Tue Nov 23 15:19:07 CST 2004

I'm sure that Sir Karl Popper would have found room for phylogenies in his "Third World"!

Don Colless,
Div of Entomology, CSIRO,
GPO Box 1700,
Canberra. 2601.
Email: don.colless at
Tuz li munz est miens envirun

-----Original Message-----
From: Taxacom Discussion List [mailto:TAXACOM at LISTSERV.NHM.KU.EDU] On Behalf Of pierre deleporte
Sent: Monday, 22 November 2004 11:57 PM
Subject: Re: The nature of cladistics [...]

A 20:54 20/11/2004 +1100, Don Colless wrote:
>on 2004-11-19 06:21 pierre deleporte wrote:
> > Can there be "processes" affecting a phylogeny?
>As I understand it, a phylogeny is a record of past evolutionary history. 
>Forgive me for a bit of logic-chopping, but how do "processes" act upon 
>the past?

A phylogeny is effectively a historical sketch (hence a "construct" of our 
minds, pace Curtis Clark). But, be it a view of the past or a view of the 
future, biological processes do not "act upon" any conceptions of the human 
mind in themselves.
No material processes can affect a phylogeny properly, because it is a 
thought construct, not because it concerns the past. If I pronostic that I 
will gain millions at the next steeplechase race, no process can properly 
affect this idea concerning the future. Of course I can change my mind, but 
this would be a process in my brain, not a change of the "idea in itself". 
The same way, the idea of a given phylogeny "exists" as a thought in my 
brain, and a possible thought in other brains, but not as a material thing 
existing outside systematic thinking.
No evolutionary systematicians, no phylogenies. Only contemporaneous living 
things, with the dead individuals gone for ever, the possible ones to come 
not still existing, and neither interacting with the living to constitute a 
real, material system undergoing processes.

Strange to see how rampant reification still affects contemporaneous 


Pierre Deleporte
CNRS UMR 6552 - Station Biologique de Paimpont
F-35380 Paimpont   FRANCE
Téléphone : 02 99 61 81 66
Télécopie : 02 99 61 81 88

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